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New York Misses Mobile Betting Boat Again

Original Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

New York has a lot going on right now, to say the least, as legislators try to navigate the coronavirus outbreak on the state hardest hit by the pandemic so far. But lost in the mayhem that has become New York's daily "new-norm" is the fact that one of the most progressive states in the US is still without a legal mobile betting platform, despite welcoming sports wagers back in 2019 at its 4 brick-and-mortar facilities.

Faced with an enormous 2020 budget shortfall thanks to COVID-19, New York had an opportunity to at least minimally mitigate their monetary shortcomings with the acceptance of mobile betting, a platform that has been responsible for millions of dollars in tax revenue for states that have welcomed it in. But with the 2020 fiscal budget locked in April 1, it doesn't appear as if New Yorkers will be able to place a bet from the comfort of their homes anytime soon.

Traditional reluctance

Governor Andrew Cuomo has long been a vocal opponent of mobile betting in his state saying time and again that the platform went against his state's Constitution. The necessary Constitutional amendment doesn’t seem to be anything that Cuomo is interested in at this point in time. Despite expanding areas at brick-and-mortar facilities where you can place a mobile wager, all bets from your phone in New York will still have to be completed on casino grounds.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo had battled hard to get mobile betting legislation for the state but without Cuomo's support and with the coronavirus absorbing every bit of lawmakers' attention, the traditional reluctance won out again in New York.

How mobile could help in a desperate situation

The recent passing of the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year has identified a $6 billion shortfall thanks to the virtual stoppage of life as we know it. Mobile betting could at least help with that deficit. A Mobile platform continues to be a big reason New York’s neighbor New Jersey has money for infrastructure and education programs and it could provide some much-needed money to navigate the post-COVID situation.

The coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted the need for New Yorkers to be able to place a bet from their home. Now shuttered, the four casinos in the state had been experiencing marginal numbers in March. The state, although up from a loss posted in February, generated just $99,514 in revenues in March, which would be considered embarrassing for neighbor New Jersey which boasts a strong mobile platform and a more liberal take on legal sports betting. New Jersey reported $494.81 million in total handle for February, 88.2% or $436.49 million coming via mobile means.

Continuing to lose out

New York has served as a good example of underwhelming and ineffective sports betting launches. Firstly, the four wagering facilities in which citizens can place a legal bet are far out of the city centers in upstate New York. Expecting bettors to travel hours to rural casinos is a big ask – there are currently no casinos within hours of New York City which has hindered the state's overall success.

New Jersey has also seen a lot of New Yorkers frequent their establishments for sports betting purposes. Some estimates say that 25% of sports betting revenues in New Jersey are thanks to bettors from New York. One figure that really stands out is New Jersey earning $33.81 in sports betting revenue per capita in 2019 with New York earning just $0.85 per capita.

Not only are some of New Jersey's finest betting establishments right across the river from America's biggest city, but they offer a strong mobile betting platform that can and is accessed anywhere in the state, not just at the gambling facilities themselves.

If mobile betting continues to be ignored in New York…

New York State, as it stands, realizes just 5% of their sports betting revenue potential and therefore misses out on a huge tax revenue windfall. $1.5 billion per year is what studies have said that a mobile sports betting platform in New York could generate – every year.

Senator Addabbo recently commented that: “Health care, education, and other cuts could have been minimized,” in 2020. Maybe some budgetary desperation and some time to step back after the coronavirus tragedy will give lawmakers in New York some better clarity on how to maximize what is a tremendous legal sports betting potential.